Taxi! Call, but allow plenty of time

If you’re trying to catch a taxi cab on New Year’s Eve, dial up your patience before calling the cab.

Most metro Atlanta taxi cab companies will not take reservations for what is by far their busiest night of the year.

One company, Atlanta Lenox Taxi, would take a reservation, but it would cost you a $50 minimum. Otherwise, a dispatcher with the company advised a call an hour ahead starting around 4 p.m.

“I just really don’t know of any other way to handle it,” said Bradley Stone, owner of Buckhead Safety Cab Co. and president of the Atlanta Taxicab Company Owners Association. His company isn’t accepting any advanced reservations, unless a customer is reserving a ride to the airport.

“If you booked all your cabs on reservation, the drivers end up getting into tremendous hassles with people on the street who are saying, ‘Why won’t you take me?’" Stone said. "Sometimes people can get pretty obnoxious.”

Stone also said because the weather is expected to be fairly nice for New Year’s Eve, there will be even more people on the streets hoping to flag a cab.

For Rick Hewatt, president and chief executive of Atlanta Checker Cab, it’s a matter of spreading his limited resources as far as possible.

“On a normal night, we’ll do about 2,000 rides," he said. "On New Year’s Eve last year, we did 3,800.”

Because of that, he said, he won’t make advanced reservations either.

His company will have nearly all of the fleet of 200 cabs in Atlanta and DeKalb -- and 90 cabs in Gwinnett and Cobb under the name Victory Cab -- deployed on metro streets Friday night.

Six dispatchers will be taking calls at about 100 calls per hour. That means 2,400 calls from 8 a.m. to midnight and then the volume only increase, he said.

Bottom line: Please be patient, he exhorted, and cancel the cab request if you flag a cab before the one you ordered arrives.

“Call an hour in advance, longer if you can,” Hewatt said, while also suggesting using his company’s mobile application, text message service or online booking.

Sgt. Robert Smith is a supervisor in Atlanta Police Department's division of taxicabs and vehicles for hire. He said nothing in Atlanta’s ordinance prohibits companies from requiring a New Year’s Eve minimum.

Flat rates, however, are reserved only for airport rides from downtown, Midtown or Buckhead, or between businesses within those three districts. So beware of cab drivers that require a flat rate on New Year’s Eve, he said. Customers can call the division with complaints at 404-658-7600.

“If we do receive complaints, we will deal with the taxi cab owners and see if there any corrections that need to be made,” he said.

There are other ways to get home, including Zingo Transportation. The service operates as follows, said Charles Barfield, the president and CEO of the Atlanta-based service that is now in 16 markets: You drive your car to a location, drink too much, then call Zingo. A driver arrives on a tiny scooter that folds into a medium-sized piece of luggage that goes in your trunk. The driver takes the wheel, gets you home in your own ride,, then uses the scooter to get to the next customer. There is a catch: You will need a reservation for New Year’s Eve.

Cost? $40 pick up fee plus $3 a mile. (There is an upcharge for New Year’s Eve, said Barfield. Normal rates are $20 to pick up and $2 a mile.)

As for hiring a bus or limo, many partyers booked up to a month ago to reserve a ride all their own.

Hoss Oskouie, vice president of Atlantic Limousine and Transportation, said his limos booked up really early this year.

“That’s good,” he said. “I don’t have to wait and sweat it out.”

But he still has sedans and SUVs available for four-hour packages that range from $320 to $450.

The Fur Bus had one bus left as of Thursday afternoon, but the company expected to rent it out because the phone was ringing off the hook. It was only available because of a cancellation, said Allyson Greenfield of The Fur Bus.

The 20-seat bus that was available (lined with fur, of course), requires a four-hour minimum, at $200 an hour.

Residents of the city of Woodstock have another option: People who drink too much to drive can call the police department. It's the third year, said Officer Greg Stepp, that the department will drive people home. He will be driving the van with another officer. He expects to take between 80 and 120 people home.